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Craig Schiff

I am very excited about this opportunity to share my perspectives and experience in my BeyeNETWORK Blog. For those of you who may not have read my articles and newsletters over the past few years, I hope you will appreciate a vendor-independent perspective on all things related to Business Performance Management (BPM). I focus on key topics organizations should consider throughout their BPM project lifecycle, from early stage requirements definition and justification, key measure development, vendor selection and finally, successful deployment and rollout. Of course, market trends and vendor updates will also be part of the mix. Please stop by on a regular basis to see what's new, and to make this interactive, please share your opinions. If you have a specific question, contact me directly at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

About the author >

Craig, President and CEO of BPM Partners, is a pioneer in business performance management (BPM). Craig helped create and define the field as it evolved from business intelligence and analytic applications into BPM. He has worked with BPM and related technologies for more than 20 years, first as a founding member at IMRS/Hyperion Software (now Hyperion Solutions) and later cofounded OutlookSoft where he was President and CEO.

Craig is a frequent author on BPM topics and monthly columnist for the BeyeNETWORK. He has led several jointly produced webcasts with Business Finance Magazine including "Beyond the Hype: The Truth about BPM Vendors," the three-part vendor review entitled "BPM Xpo" and "BPM 101: Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Business Performance Management." He is a recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. BPM Partners is a vendor-independent professional services firm focused exclusively on BPM, providing expertise that helps companies successfully evaluate and deploy BPM systems. Craig can be reached at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Craig's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

I've noticed a disturbing trend recently while dealing with both BPM vendors and prospective purchasers. While individuals are sharing more and more of their personal information (sometimes inadvertently), these guys are sharing less. Of course there is a time and place for confidentiality, such as when you are revealing information that has not yet been made public, or if you are giving someone access to your data (or your customer's data). However, if you are a  vendor who has a commercially released product and customers does it really make sense to hide your pricing and feature capabilities from the analyst community? Of course not. Vendors operate in 'stealth mode' when they are developing new product that they want to surprise the world with upon its release. It keeps the competitors in the dark until the last moment. When that product is released though you need as many people as possible to be informed about it to talk it up and  help promote it. Once you have customers, basic information about the product and pricing is going to get out anyway, you might as well take ownership of the conversation. Yes competitors will get an idea of what you have been up to as well. If keeping your capabilities secret is the only barrier preventing competitors from catching up to you then you don't really have much of a unique product advantage to begin with.

I say all this because we are trying to help one of our clients find the best BPM solution for their needs. We are aware of a newer product that may be a fit. However, that vendor, even with a non-disclosure agreement in place, is unwilling to share even the most basic information. We are not talking about divulging the 'secret sauce,' just what the product does and doesn't do, and at what cost. I remember two other BPM software companies that had similarly secretive senior executive management teams. Neither one of those really took off until those executives were pushed aside. In one of those cases a vendor who had a better product lost three years of  market momentum to a competitor who now dominates their niche.

On the client side, we were trying to have a conversation with a new prospective purchaser of our services. We didn't know yet what they needed and if they would actually engage us. Just to have that initial conversation required us to sign a fairly one-sided and onerous non-disclosure document. We are not talking about seeing any of their data or learning details about their operations. Just a conversation where they can say 'we need to improve our reporting' or 'we need a new budgeting system'. Is any of that information the kind of thing that can sink their stock price if it got out or cause customers to run away? Of course not. The agreement they wanted us to sign though will allow them to visit our site on short notice to examine our security procedures, allow them to sue us for all we are worth if anything they say to us gets out and they suspect it came from us, and lives on for years and years even after our conversation is ancient history. These are reasonable risks for us to take if we are engaged in a sizeable project with them, but not to have the conversation to determine if it even makes sense for us to work together. In the end we did sign the agreement and were allowed to speak with them. We discovered fairly quickly that what they were looking for is not a good fit for us and we walked away. I wish we could have done that without having to incur the cost of our lawyers reviewing their extensive confidentiality agreement first.

Excessive confidentiality can limit the free flow of necessary information. I think in the case of these vendors and prospects they are hurting themselves by being overly protective. The vendors will not achieve the market awareness they need. The prospects will find fewer and fewer consultants willing to take the legal risks or incur the legal review costs just to see if there is a need for their services. I hope these recent incidents don't become the norm.


Posted May 14, 2010 10:13 AM
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